A few years ago, way before I even started blogging, my dad bought me a book covering all the pubs in the New Forest area as I was living super close to it at the time (it’s quite extensive and includes a lot of the outskirts as well). It’s compiled by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale – yeah, my Dad’s an ale guy) and features a little bit on information about each place, sometimes it mentions a dish or speciality but it doesn’t really rate the pubs and their options as such – it simply makes note that they exist and indicates the ale options provided by the bar, alongside whether there’s camping nearby, a real fire and a smoking area among other things I’m not bothered about. There’s a bunch of history as well as information about ales so if you know someone into that, this book will be a nice treat! If not, I’m going to be compiling my own edited guide. Not only are we going to take a look at the quality of the pubs on offer to cut down to the best of the best, but I’m Vegetarian so my opinion is going to be highly based off of their veggie and vegan options as that’s something often not considered even in the best of places. You can have the best rep ever for the best food and the best service but if there’s nothing I can eat as a vegetarian then I’m obviously going to be disappointed and I think in 2019 it’s pretty lazy not to cater for such a simple and popular dietary requirement. When my Dad bought me this book, we excitedly planned to visit all the pubs inside and take note on our opinions until we found our favourites…I think we did one? Pretty lame attempt, but now that I’m writing I’ve been inspired to start again and cover it here. Upon realising quite how many pubs there are for us to get to (it’s already becoming a chore haha…woe is me, having to eat huge pub meals on the reg) I decided this is probably going to be best published in Instalments and then maybe when I’m done, I can re-evaluate my writing into a top ten of all time! Today, I’m going to shout about five fab pubs we’ve been to recently.
The Pig Hotel (Brockenhurst)
This place is absolutely beautiful, surrounded by stunning grounds that you can explore, including their kitchen garden where they’ve picked the food for the day, alongside herbs and other bits. There’s even some cute little quails on site as well as sheep, chickens and a few big pigs! Wild birds fill the trees and if you sit out in the courtyard for lunch as we did, you can hear them tweeting all afternoon. The restaurant was just closing by the time we got there (and super busy, so defo book!) – they have a lovely menu in there and it’s gorgeous inside but as it was such a nice day we opted for outside where they were serving freshly baked flatbreads in their outside oven which is just a really nice vibe. It’s a small lunchtime menu but plenty of options and there’s always freshly baked cakes inside if you’ve still got some room afterwards! We shared a goats cheese and vegetable flatbread alongside a garlic flatbread and a side of houmous which was more than enough for us (even though I absolutely inhaled mine!) and I’d definitely return here. Save this place for a nice day when you can really appreciate the grounds and take your time, it’s perfect for birthdays and special occasions as it will definitely impress your loved ones! Otherwise, why not treat yourself?
The Alice Lisle (Rockford)
This is a really lovely building with lots of sun pouring into the windows and a nice lake view – great for families as there’s a big play park outside and a huge beer garden with plenty of tables and chairs. We went on a Sunday so we couldn’t resist trying their roast dinner, they serve a selection of different meat options as well as a vegetarian alternative. Of course I had their veggie option, butternut squash and feta Wellington which is an absolute fave treat of mine and it came served with potatoes, yorkshire pudding, cauliflower cheese, honey roasted parsnips and carrots, a butternut squash puree and buttered kale – all the trimmings! A great meal full of variation and would definitely go again just for the roast, although I’d love to try the normal menu. It’s sort of set back from the road so it’s nice and quiet, surrounded by wildlife which makes it extra special. It was pretty busy so this place is no secret, definitely book if you can!
The Drift Inn (Bealieu Road)
I wanted to go here specifically because they had halloumi and chips on the menu, which might be one of the least nutritional meals ever but I LOVE battered halloumi so I was totally up for it. The battered halloumi was served with massive sweet potato chunks, alongside a salad and basil pestio which I switched out for the crushed minted peas so it was more similar to the fish and chips options which my dad had – a very nice battered haddock apparently! Mine was amazing, the beer-batter was delicious and so light and the halloumi wasn’t too salty (weirdly) so it was really easy to scoff quickly. I had every intention of giving a piece to Dad so I wasn’t eating quite such a terrible amount of cheese but it was so nice I couldn’t comprehend sharing and gave him a sweet potato wedge instead. The pub itself is by Bealieu Road train station, right in the centre of the forest so there are New Forest ponies out and about the roads along with a few donkeys and some cows which is everything you want when visiting the forest. Plus, the surrounding scenery is so lovely we even saw some newly weds having their photos taken across the road! The building itself is well looked after and spacious with that ye olde pub feeling to it with a nice warm fire to plonk down next to and friendly service to top it off. We missed the restaurant opening times and ate from the smaller bar menu (which, luckily, had the halloumi on!) so I’d love to revisit for a proper meal.
The New Forest Inn (Emery Down)
This is a proper traditional pub building, with a warm fire inside and mis-matched tables and chairs throughout the venue, which is all on slightly different levels, splitting off into different little sections which I’m sure is great for larger bookings. They serve a massive menu (inside a very fancy old school wooden holder!) and I was impressed to see they actually had vegan options! This isn’t all that common in these trad pubs around the Forest, so kudos for keeping up! I opted for one of the many vegetarian dishes, butternut squash risotto and it was delicious. The portion was absolute massive but it was super tasty so I ate all of it. I love that the menu also incorporates many locally produced ingredients and they have a beautiful little garden outside that would be just perfect for the summer months. This pub was said to have started as a gypsy caravan and has expanded from there! They have quite a varied menu, so I’m sure there’d be something for everyone.
The Angel and Blue Pig (Lymington)
Beautiful old building amongst a high street of pretty shop fronts and serves a very well priced lunchtime menu, only £12.50 for three courses!? All were very decent portion sizes too, but I’d definitely return to try the normal menu as, although it’s much pricier, it has loads of great sounding options. The brownie we had for dessert was our stand out piece (and Dad’s a big brownie fan) as it was huge but also super chocolatey and rich, made with dark chocolate and hazelnuts with a caramel layer topped by more chocolate. Unfortunately we visited in the pouring rain but this would be a lovely place in the Summer so you can take a stroll around the surrounding areas and sit outside.
The photos here have all been taken using my phone so apologies for the lower quality than usual, but all these meals were paid for by myself and enjoyed on my own time so carrying a massive camera around isn’t always the most fun! I hope you enjoy my recommendations and I’d love to hear yours in the comments below 🙂